Saturday, 7 December 2013

How not to pick winner for art contest


By Tajudeen Sowole
It was a controversial First Prize winner out of the 12 finalists that chased the grand prize of African Artists Foundation (AAF)-organised National Art Competition 2013 tagged IDENTITY: Who Do You Think You Are?

It’s a fact that everyone cannot and must not agree with results at competitions, particularly in art, which has contentious perspectives to creativity. But  the 2013 edition of AAF/Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc grand finale, held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, came with an indictment: artists had no say in determining the content of art, particularly in an event designed to unearth masters.

1st Prize, I-DentitiTrees by Sesu Tilley-Gyado

“Non-artists”, according to the head of the jury Prof El Anatsui, out-voted the three artists in the ten member jurors. “In fact, those that we artists chose did not carry the majority of the votes”, Anatsui lamented shortly before the winners were announced inside the expansive Art Twenty One space of Eko Hotel and Suites.
The results as announced by the event’s Special Guest of Honour and Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Dr William Babatunde Fowler, showed that the main beneficiary of the non-artists-dominated jury was an installation titled I-DentitiTrees by Sesu Tilley-Gyado, which won the First Prize, worth N2 million naira.  Also announced were Pattern by Halima Abubaker and Zemaye Okediji, winning N1m naira for Outstanding Concept; and Victoria Udondian’s Arti-tude, a performance/photography installation, which picked N1m for Outstanding Production.


Pattern by Halima Abubaker and Zemaye Okediji, won the Outstanding Concept Prize

Anatsui’s argument that the composition of the jury created a “balance and democratic process”, was not enough to calm frayed nerves as the end results, particularly of the First Prize winner got two of the judges furious. In separates chats after the results were announced, a lady member (names withheld) said “It was a disappointing results for me; not what I expected”.  But the out-voted artist members of the jury were not exactly the only ones whose opinion did not count. A collector and non-artist member could not really understand how the results ended the way it did. “I do not agree with the results... highly disappointing”, she fumed.

Was there any unresolved issue over the results among the judges? Medina Dugger of AAF argued that the process of arriving at the winner was transparent, based on points scored by each finalist. “Our judging process is points-based system, so it's normal that not all will agree. The judges give points on criteria such as: technique, relevance to the theme, depth of interpretation, originality etc. The winner is the finalist with the most points as confirmed by the majority vote”.

Other members of the Anatsui-led jury included Bisi Silva, Oliver Enwonwu, Francois Sastourne, Maki Osakwe, Yasue Maetake, Caline Chagoury, Yvonne Ike, Michelle Okocha and Prof Peju Layiwola.

However, there appeared to be a common factor among all the First Prize winning works of the AAF/NB Plc-organised national art competition in the past four editions. From Sangodare Ajala’s The Fire of Nigeria Burns Strongly, 2010, which was the largest in size of the finalists’ works, to the duo Uche Uzorka and Chike Obeagu’s loaded installation as well as the 2012 winner, Chinenye Miriam Emelogu’s Human Hive, which occupied nearly the half of the Grand Finale space at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos; and the current First Prize winner, size of work presented appeared to have been the winning formula. In fact, the current First Prize winner,  I-DentitiTrees, populated with poles, hardly found enough headroom at Art Twenty One’s huge space.


Victoria Udondian’s Arti-tude, a performance/photography installation, won Outstanding Production.

But the artists have been urged to look at the value and privileged of being among the 12 finalists. All the finalists, according to the Corporate Affairs Adviser, NB Plc Kufre Ekanem “are winners”. He noted that the experience garnered by the artists during the workshop and the individual’s studio work towards the grand finale, are invaluable.

And ahead of the announcement of the three winners, all the finalists were given certificates of participation.  The other finalists in included Karima Ashadu, Alayande Ayanwale, Chidinma Nnorom Chinke, Mary Edoga Chioma, Taiye Idahor, Erasmus Onyishi, Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Felicia Okpara Tochukwu, Chuka Ejorh and Olamide Udo-Udoma.


AAF explained that the theme of the 2013 edition “explores how artists view the relationship between individual and collective identity in Nigeria of today and examines the role of art as a vehicle for social change.”

3 comments:

  1. Nice reading Tajudeen but talking about the members of the jury, I will think we have more than three artists in the jury panel. Apart from El Anatsui, we had the international class curator, Bisi Silva, Prof. Peju Layiwola, Oliver Enwonwu and the south korean lady was also an artist (not sure of her name). So, I will say the artists on the board might be more than three. Talking about the hugeness of the works presented, you might hardly find one that's not huge too among the other works. There is a kind of unwritten law from my observation of contemporary art pieces that most of them are created big and I will say, the platform of AAF is a good one for the develpment of contemporary art in Nigeria. I hope they can improve on this competition in all ramification, so it could be taken to the next level.Wale Alayande.

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    1. Dear Gabriel apparently you have not followed the competition over time and there are usually smaller works and there was one that I wud categorise as huge. The writer is right, a limit has to be put on size cos apparently nobody gives much thought to concept but rather size because now everyone wants to make the biggest work cos thats what takes the bacon, doesn't make sense!

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    2. Infact 2 works if I remember correctly were not HUGE. unless u can define huge. Its just scam!

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